Gomes gets chance with Tribe as Classic nears

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yan Gomes chose to focus on competing for a roster spot with the Indians this spring rather than leaving camp to play in the World Baseball Classic. That decision will pay off in the form of increased playing time.

Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana will depart soon to play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming Classic, opening the door for Gomes to get extra at-bats. Manager Terry Francona said backup catcher Lou Marson and Gomes will likely alternate starts until Santana returns.

"It'll be really good for him," Francona said Thursday morning. "I think he's caught enough to this point where he can do that physically."

Gomes is in the running for a bench role as a third-string catcher behind Santana and Marson, and a reserve option for first base, third base, designated hitter and the corner outfield spots. What the Indians really want to evaluate is whether the 25-year-old Gomes can develop into a realistic fit for a starting catching job down the road.

Given that line of thinking, the Indians will need to weigh whether Gomes should open this season as a part-time player in the big leagues or a regular starter behind the plate at Triple-A Columbus.

Gomes is not competing with Marson for the Tribe's backup catching role.

"We all respect what Lou can do. That's an important job," Francona said. "The thing we're trying to figure out, because Gomes hasn't done it, is can he possibly be an everyday Major League catcher. That's a lot to handle, but we need to answer that."

Cleveland acquired Gomes, along with infielder Mike Aviles, from Toronto in November in exchange for reliever Esmil Rogers. Gomes hit .204 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 43 games between five stints with the Blue Jays last season. With Triple-A Las Vegas, the catcher hit .328 with 13 homers, 29 doubles and 59 RBIs in 79 games.

Through four Cactus League games this spring, Gomes has gone 4-for-7 (.571) at the plate with one home run, two doubles and five RBIs for the Indians.

"He's pretty darned good," Francona said. "You try not to let guys' at-bats influence how you view their defense, because that can really happen easily. But catching-wise, I think we've all thought he's been pretty solid. Again, we've played seven games, but the initial returns are pretty good."